Elite Dangerous – Exploration and Mapping Guide - Prima Games

Elite Dangerous – Exploration and Mapping Guide

by Prima Games Staff

Exploring in Elite Dangerous is about more than just flying from star to star and glancing at a few planets. If you really want to make money as an explorer, you’re going to need to work hard, know what you’re looking for and be prepared to fly around… a lot.

Setting Up Your Ship

Basic Requirements

The first thing you need to do to become a decent explorer is get your ship set up for the task. Right off the bat, your basic Sidewinder is always equipped for an OK time at exploring. However, if you really want to make the big bucks, you’ll need to step up your game and dish out a little bit of hard-earned cash to get a bigger ship with a bigger Frame Shift Drive

Your basic requirements for an explorer-ready ship are any ship, a Basic Discovery Scanner and a Fuel Scoop.

Advanced Requirements

If you want to make a living as an explorer, you’ll need to have the best possible ship setup. In order to help you out, we sent out our best and brightest Commanders and they brought us back these two setups to help you get a head start in the exploration business. First let’s take a look at getting your ASP up to a max jump range of almost 38LY.

Do not equip any Hardpoints. You’ll be exploring, so you won’t need your guns since they’ll weigh you down. After around 400LY you’ll be all alone in space, so pirates aren’t an issue. 

Keep in mind that all of the items listed below were chosen in order to reduce weight, maximize power usage and overall get the most use out of you ship.

  • Lightweight Bulkheads
  • A 2 Power Plant
  • D 4 Thrusters
  • A 5 Frame Shift Drive
  • D 4 Life Support
  • D 3 Power Distributor
  • D 5 Sensors
  • C 5 Fuel Tank (Capacity 32)
  • C 6 Fuel Scoop
  • C 1 Detailed Surface Scanner
  • C 1 Advanced Discovery Scanner

If you aren’t a huge fan of the Asp, then the next best ship to explore in is a Hauler. These bad boys are small enough to not have too much mass, yet large enough to offer plenty of space for all the goodies you can pack into it.

In order to get the most out of your Hauler, you’ll want to run the following:

  • Lightweight Bulkheads
  • D 2 Power Plant
  • D 2 Thrusters
  • A 2 Frame Shift Drive
  • D 1 Life Support
  • D 1 Power Distribturo
  • D 1 Sensors
  • C 2 Fuel Tank (Capacity: 4)
  • A 3 Fuel Scopp
  • C 1 Detail Surface Scanner
  • E 1 Advanced Discovery Scanner

In addition, run zero Hardpoints, as you aren’t going to focus on combat as an explorer.

These aren’t the only ways to explore the galaxy. These are simply two of the basic loadouts that we felt were worthy of being featured in this article.

How Do I Scan?

Once you have your ship ready to go and out in the undiscovered portions of the map, it’s time to get scanning. First you’ll want to deploy your Discovery Scanner and use it to discover the unknown objects in the current system. From there, you want to target an UNKOWN object. Continue flying towards the object until the scanning starts, and keep the object in your target area. 

Tip: Scanning distance is effected by the object’s mass/size.

Star Guide

There are a lot of undiscovered planets out there. It’s baffling to even think about this, but we’re sure you’re wondering which planets and stars are valuable. Don’t worry, we have you covered.

Base Star Class values from lowest to highest value:

Y, T, L, M, K, G, F, A, B, O.

Of course this can mean very little when you don’t know what class star you’re looking at. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to tell without scanning it, but at least you make some credits off it in the process.

Planets are another thing entirely. Unlike stars, their values are based more on the style of planets instead of the class. There are three major types of planets in Elite Dangerous, Water, Earthlike and Ammonia. Of course, Earth-like worlds are the most valuable, however the other two planet types also net a decent amount of credits. Overall you can gain between 10,000 to 30,000 credits per planet discovery.

There are also planetoid objects like Jovians, which net anywhere from 500 to 6,000 credits, and Rocks, which net 200 to 800 credits.

Sell Your Data

This is where the money exchanges hands. In order to sell your data, you’ll need to be at least 20LY away from the scanned object. It doesn’t matter how much further away you are, as the value does not increase based on distance.

Explorer Rank Progression

Aimless – Mostly Aimless – Scout – Surveyor – Trailblazer – Pathfinder – Ranger – Pioneer – Elite.

Mapping Your Routes

Now that you know everything about scanning and exploring, it’s time to talk about mapping, as you’ll be doing quite a bit of this during your time as an explorer. First things first, we highly suggest setting up a Hotkey to open up your map; the M key on your keyboard should suffice. Once you have that set up, then it’s time to start plotting a course.

The sad fact is, the Galaxy Map only allows you to plot a course up to a certain point. You can use third-party websites to plot a course, but sometimes those courses will result in wasted fuel and more jumps than you really need to make. Simply put, the easiest way to plot a long flight through the galaxy is to open up your map, find the system you want to travel to and then find another system around 100LY from your current system. 

Once you reach that 100LY mark, simply rinse and repeat the job until you’ve arrived at your destination. If your map isn’t allowing you to choose up to 100LY away, then your ship isn’t capable of some of the jumps in between, in which case you’ll simply need to plot your course manually for a few jumps and then try again.

Tip: Don’t forget to toggle the types of routes your map is finding by heading to the Navigation tab and checking or unchecking the Fastest Routes option.

If you’re having problems finding star systems, head to the Navigation tab on your map and search for the system by name. 

The Galaxy Map looks daunting and it is rather confusing at times, but if you follow the simple steps we outlined above you shouldn’t run into many problems at all.

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